16 July 2019
CNN reporter Will Ripley was forced to halt his live broadcast of the aftermath of the explosions (inset). Photos: YouTube, Weibo
CNN reporter Will Ripley was forced to halt his live broadcast of the aftermath of the explosions (inset). Photos: YouTube, Weibo

Tianjin media quiet on explosions, foreign reporters blocked

In the northern Chinese port city rocked by massive explosions that killed at least 50 people, coverage by local media was conspicuous by its absence, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

Even as the explosions in Tianjin on Wednesday hit the headlines of overseas media including CNN and BBC, Tianjin Television was still silent about any casualties 10 hours later, broadcasting Korean dramas instead.

A Tianjin TV program list for Thursday morning posted online by a netizen showed that the Tianjin Morning News program gave just one minute to the explosions, while images of Mayor Huang Xingguo merited 40 seconds.

No mention was made of the latest developments or number of casualties in the disaster.

Other channels failed to cover the incident, some of them broadcasting entertainment programs instead.

Responding to criticism from users of social media, Teng Huan, a Tianjin TV host, wrote in her WeChat account: “CCTV reporters came to the accident site after 4 a.m. on Thursday. Where was the coverage from before?”

Teng said Tianjin TV reporters had worked at the scene without sleep to supply reports to China’s national media, suggesting that the local TV station was restricted from providing its own coverage.

Foreign media were also thwarted in their attempts to report on the disaster.

Will Ripley, a CNN reporter, was forced to halt his live broadcast outside a Tianjin hospital when a man shouted: “We don’t need foreigners to help Chinese cover stories.”

A crowd besieged Ripley and demanded that he delete the footage.

CNN later said the live broadcast was interrupted by the families and friends of victims of the explosion.

Police reportedly checked the identification of a reporter from Taiwan media and took his camera and its memory card away.

The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee ordered mainland media on Thursday morning to carry only news releases from the state-run Xinhua news agency, the party mouthpiece People’s Daily and Tianjin’s local official media.

Websites were banned from making live broadcasts or covering the story by themselves.

Everyone except reporters from the national media must leave the scene of the disaster, the propaganda department ordered.

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